Mayflower of China - Chinese (1 Star)
Given I've found several restaurants in the Southcenter area that keep me coming back again and again (frozen yogurt, sushi, Thai, and Indian), I figured I'd branch out to other strip malls in the area and see if my luck would hold. Unfortunately, not getting food poisoning was as lucky as I got.
Mayflower of China seems innocent enough until you go inside. To the right is the entrance to the bar where a middle-aged woman in a mini-skirt, big hair, and a voice deeper than mine served up drinks to a haggard crowd. I eagerly avoided that room and was seated alongside the left part of the restaurant. It was at that point, two words struck fear into my heart: Wicker. Furniture.
Seriously? C'mon now, wicker furniture? INSIDE? I really should have made a dash for the front door, but I was determined to give Mayflower a shot and was really hoping their food would be better than the decor complete with plastic flowers and Asian tchotchkes. For sheer entertainment, I was happy to be within earshot of a table having a meltdown about the slow-going expansion to their trailer and which of the "lovely ladies" had been sleeping with whom over the previous month. I was convinced any of the four women could have easily taken me in a bar fight, so I'd definitely leave Mayflower off your list if you were considering it for a romantic rendezvous.
The extensive menu of over 130 items seemed very reasonably priced with almost all of the entrees under $10. As with most Asian restaurants, egg rolls, spring rolls, and pot stickers are a staple, so I ordered their Fried Prawns and Spring Egg Rolls appetizers first, to be followed by their Pot Stickers. I was hoping for a bite or two of each to get a feel for how fresh their apps were.
The Fried Prawns were...disgusting. Wrapped in all together too much batter, the tiny shrimp inside could barely be tasted as they were drenched in frying oil. Oddly enough, the stale, boring shrimp chips had more shrimp flavor than the Fried Prawns. For one of the prawns, I scraped off the coating and saw that it wasn't even deveined. I couldn't help but feel these were purchased in a jumbo bag that was resealed with a twisty-tie and aging away in their freezer as there was no way these were fresh. The Spring Egg Rolls left me with the same feeling.
The Spring Egg Rolls were so greasy, I had to place them inside my napkin and squeeze to drain them enough to be eaten. The cabbage and "meat" inside had little flavor and couldn't stand up to flavor of the deep frying oil. I doubted they changed that vat oil more than once a month, if that, because both the egg rolls and prawns tasted about the same. Served with a red, ketchupy sauce and Chinese hot mustard, not even slathering both sauces onto the Egg Rolls would make them worth eating. Moving on!
Because the Pot Stickers weren't going to be deep fried, I hoped they would be half as delicious as those at Wild Ginger. As you can see from the photo, they were beyond "stuck" to the pan and all of them were quite burned. The soy sauce with chilies served alongside them as the dipping sauce was too salty and generally not worth dipping anything into. It was incredibly frustrating that the three appetizers I ordered are all staples for this cuisine and yet were so poorly prepared that they weren't worth eating. It's rare that I have this kind of a bad dining experience, but I remained slightly hopeful the entrees would be worth it.
General Tsao's Chicken seems to be prepared differently just about everywhere. The sauce ranges from orange to brown and mild to spicy, the batter is anywhere from thin to thick, and the chicken is often just white or dark meat, but sometimes both. If the dark meat used here would have been less stringy and gristly, it would have been a 2.5 or 3 Stars dish. The batter was crispy and not overwhelming and the sauce was a pleasant, slightly sweet and spicy addition. It was a fairly large serving as well, though I doubt I would have resorted to a doggy bag to shuttle home the leftovers.
By far, the best flavor and texture of the evening belonged to the Sweet and Sour Chicken. The plate was packed with crispy, sweetly sauced chicken, pounded thin and served piping hot. Normally, you get some onions, carrots, and possibly a few other vegetables like bell peppers along with the pineapple, but Mayflower decided sauce and a few chunks of pineapple were all you were getting. Despite looking greasy, the sauce actually cut through the oil well (not exactly a compliment, I suppose) and I finished most of what was on my plate. I wouldn't cringe if I had to eat this entree again, but as I'm never stepping foot back in this restaurant it's a moot point.
And now for the rat on my plate. As you can see from the photo, there are chunks of charred, burned pot sticker swimming in pools of oil. I have no clue why they would think a cookie-cutter rat made out of a carrot was classy and deserved to be provided as an edible garnish for the worst Pot Stickers ever, but, alas, I'm not in charge of the menu at Mayflower. It was the only dish served with any kind of garnish, which made the inclusion even more weird.
I can see now why people question my remarkable food finds for Thai, sushi, and Indian food just a block away. Mayflower of China is the type of restaurant that gives strip mall fare a really, really bad name. As the worst Chinese food I've ever eaten, my advice would be to avoid this at all costs.